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Front Page » May 5, 2005 » Focus on Safe Kids » Safety: its not just kids play
Published 3,270 days ago

Safety: its not just kids play


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By RICHARD SHAW
General manager

Debbie Marvidikis and Georgina Nowak hold an education poster that depicts some of the most important safety issues facing families with children today. The two stood out in the blustery wind on Friday during a state wide drive for people to turn in and get information on products recalled for safety reasons.

"Think Safety."

It's a common sign that hangs in many a work place. Adults are used to the signs of safety everywhere. They see them on the road, on labels of products they use, on equipment they run, even on packages which contain things they take into their bodies.

But for kids safety isn't quite so clear cut, or at least from their perception. While adults often do stupid things that get them injured or killed, they often realize that danger before they undertake the action. With kids however, their minds are generally not on safety, and often with a low level of maturity, can only be safe if adults promote safety around them.

Some adults, however, ignore those facts. They think that safety costs too much, in both time and preparation. But not being safe costs, it doesn't save.

"If you look at the cost of safety equipment such as a bike helmet or a car seat, when you compare that to the cost of an emergency room visit or living with a child with a disability for a lifetime, that initial cost is worth the investment in time and money," said Georgina Nowak, the child safety health educator, for the Southeastern Utah Health Department as she manned a special child product recall booth that was set up in a local parking lot last Friday. "The few minutes that it takes to be safe can prevent substantial injury."

Overlooking the safety of children is a parents job. Yet so many parents don't even think when it comes to protecting their kids from many of the dangers around them. Nowak says that kids don't perceive danger in the same way as adults do.

"Walking to school is a good example," she says. "They see a car that is about to stop, but they have no real idea about what it takes for that vehicle to halt. As adults it is our job to teach kids about safety and make it a habit. Then they will be more likely to be more safe later on."

Some aspects of safety are the same everywhere. But each place, each locality, has its own idiosyncrasies when it comes to the major safety problems for children.

"In Carbon County, primarily what we see are non-use or improper use of child safety restraints in vehicles, not using protective safety equipment such as bicycle helmets and not locking up firearms," she stated. "People often think that accident is just happenstance, something that just occurs. But that isn't true. When you examine individual incidents, an accident is an event that is preventable much of the time, but wasn't stopped for some reason."

Nowak says she sees things all the time that bother her when it comes to safety for kids. For instance she often sees injuries come out of the bike and skateboard park because kids aren't wearing helmets to do their stunts. She also says another major cause of childhood accidents that is very specific to the west and to this area in particular are injuries from ATVs.

"You see kids all the time that are riding those machines that aren't big enough for them, haven't had the training and aren't wearing any protective gear," she states. "Everyone oohs and ahhs when the accidents from those machines happen and some child is seriously injured, but then they go right back to letting their kids ride them again, under the same circumstances. They don't think it is ever going to happen to them."

Helmets need to be on correctly.

It's easy to crash on a bicycle, skateboard or scooter. Each year many children visit the doctor or the hospital when they do that.

Many times accidents happen when people least suspect it, during a non-busy time at the skateboard park or on a quiet street.

Broken bones can often heal pretty easily when a child is young, but head injuries are another thing. Often they can lead to life long disabilities or even death.

A good helmet will provide protection to those that play hard. It can't keep kids from falling off of bikes, but when worn all the time and fitted correctly, they can save many from serious injury.

The problem is that many parents buy their children a bike and then forget to buy the helmet. Sometimes it may seem an expensive item.

But what cost can one place the health of a child?

This brings about the major problem involved in safety for kids; the attitude of adults who are supervising them. Many adults complain about safety measures and say that they never wore bike helmets when they were kids, had fun on their motorcycles without protective equipment, they never wore safety belts and they didn't need safety locks on their parents guns because they had respect for the weapons and knew what those firearms could do. By looking back at their own childhood they take the attitude that it isn't important because somehow they survived just fine.

But that thought process is flawed because no one knows how many kids were injured in the "old days" when accidents happened largely because specific statistics on child injuries and death were not kept in hospitals or emergency rooms until just a few years ago.

"The fact is that things were different then too," explained Nowak. "There was less traffic, cars were built differently, and most people didn't realize the damage that could be done. Now the resulting injuries are kept track of and beyond that the cost of medical care has risen so much that an injury is no longer just a little thing."

Kids are sometimes also involved in home work or agricultural accidents as well. It is a well known fact that agricultural jobs have some of the highest injury rates for adults but few people realize that children who work around that industry also have injuries as well.

"We stated looking at the injury rate for kids through 4-H and through Emery County and there is a whole national focus on looking at agricultural childhood accidents," she stated. "I don't know what is showing up at the hospital, but we have kids on tractors and around equipment that is dangerous, often without proper instruction on how to operate it. Another area that is being looked at in this same area is agricultural poisoning that can take place. In some areas of the country there are some effects of that showing up in kids."

There is also another perennial danger for children in Carbon County, water. With open canals and ditches in some places the situations that come up can be deadly. And this year could be worse because of the amount of water that might come down streams from wet weather and the melting snow. Water is always a draw for kids.

"When we start getting around water, either recreationally or just around a neighborhood, we need to watch that kids are supervised," she says. "Certainly we're all glad for the moisture, but we need to realize how dangerous it all can be too."

But in many cases controlled water is as or more dangerous to children than running streams.

"Utah doesn't have the same rules for pools and hot tubs like Arizona does where they have to be gated and fenced," says Nowak. "Just think of the number of hot tubs that are in the community that kids are unsupervised around? It has the potential to be a real problem."

So what's the answer.

"Just common sense," said Nowak. "And not thinking it will never happen to you."


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